Need Athearn re-motor advice please

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by CCT70, Sep 30, 2008.

  1. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Hey guys, I am new to DCC, and have a sizeable fleet of Athearn units that I have either custom painted and detailed or had custom painted and detailed. I was given the opportunity to meet a new friend and run on his GORGEOUS WP layout (very large mushroom style) this past weekend. He lives about 30 minutes from me here and Alicia and I were very impressed by his layout. It's also the same RR and time era that I run, so naturally, I want to decode a lot of my power and run it on his railroad. Apparently though, Athearn motors draw WAY too much current, even with decoders installed that it really bogs down the NCE DCC system. He only runs Atlas, Proto 2000 (?! Those are basically "tuned" Athearn Motors right??) and Kato on there. I asked him what would be a good replacement motor for these old Athearn growlers, and he replied "Helix Humper". Problem is, those are no longer in production. I am an electrical DUMMY and totally in the dark with electrical and DCC. Anyone have any other choices besides Helix Humper, Atlas, Proto and Kato motors? I do NOT wish to keep all of my work over the years consigned to display cabinets and purchase new power.

    Help please! sign1[​IMG]

  2. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

  3. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Thanks a bunch, that DOES look really promising! Pretty clever in fact, and definitely something of interest, however, it doesn't cure my initial problem of those Athearn motors drawing too much current for DCC and needing to re-motor all together. Any ideas on a decent motor for that?
  4. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Sounds more like a problem with his system, the newer Athearn motors with the brass flywheels should work fine. We had a Digitrax system at the club where I regularly ran my Athearns with no ill effect on operations. It wasn't unusual for there to be 10-12 trains going, some with multiple units. When I did modify mine, I used Mashima motors from Ernst. I don't know if they are around any longer.

    BTW, that's a serious stable of horsepower there:thumb:
  5. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    At some point, you are going to want to ascertain the real current draw of your locomotives. If measuring current draw on DCC, you will need a Rampmeter (sp?) sold by Tony's to get an accurate measurement. If measuring on DC - not "DC" from a DCC system! - an ordinary multimeter or ammeter will do.

    The oldest Athearns with open frame motors should draw around 0.6 amps or slightly less. More than 0.6 amps means either the motor magnets are weak (replace with rare earth magnet stack) or there is excessive friction in the drive (identify source and fix).

    Athearns with can motors should be drawing less current - probably down around the 0.3 amp range.

    As was already mentioned - perhaps the DCC system in question does not have enough power output. The rated DCC system output has to be more than the total current draw of all locomotives and lighted cars operating simultaneously. Locomotives on the track, but not moving, draw a very small current to run the decoder and any lights or sounds turned on - perhaps 0.1 amps or less. Lighted cars can be another significant power sink. If the load is too much and the DCC system is already at 5 amps, additional power districts with their own boosters should be added.

    my thoughts, your choices
  6. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    If you're serious about re-powering your Athearns, you're going to be spending about $40-$50/loco.

    One of the easiest ways to do this is with the A-Line repowering kits.

    That said, some tuning and tweaking of the newer (brass "can") Athearn motors can yield smoother, quieter running. Polishing the commutator with a pencil eraser (pull the motor out and remove the brushes, chuck the motor shaft in a drill, spin up the armature and gently polish the commutator as it's spinning) makes a world of difference.
  7. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Thanks a bunch, I looked into the A-Line re-motor jobs, but they are a little pricey. I guess though if I want these to run smooth as silk, I'll have to bite the bullet and go that route. I do have a few already purchased before they really jumped in price and they are smooth.
  8. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    The problem is unless you can find some can motors at a swap meet somewhere, you're really stuck with the Athearn motors. Mashima and Sagami can motors for an Athearn are going to start at about $30, and you'd have to bush the shafts to fit the original flywheels, or custom-fit new ones.

    Horzion Hobby hasn't restocked the original Athearn motors, all they have in stock are the new SD70 (genesis?) motors, which are almost as much as the A-lines, and the "hi-performance" motor for the AMD-103... which looks like a regular 5/8" Athearn motor. They're about $16, and they might fit your older locos...

    You didn't say what vintage your locos are - are they the old black motors, or the newer brass "can" motors? I think your best bet (dollar wise) is to tune them as best you can, get them running as smoothly as you can, and go with a higher-powered (5A) DCC system.

  9. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    These are the brass style Athearn motors. Athearns are funky though with a hit or miss record. I had an SW1500 (took a header off the layout but still have the guts in a Cary Alco Switcher) that for some odd reason, that motor always ran, straight out of the box, as smooth as an Atlas or Kato. After adding weight inside the shell wherever I could, it was every bit as good as an Atlas Alco. Problem was, like I said, ran off the end of the layout one day and hit the carpet with enough force (I suppose thanks to the added weight) that it cracked the shell in two places, so that motor went into a Cary S-4 I had laying around. Other Athearns either ran *ok*, or mediocre, with a few here and there running poorly and requiring a tune up before heavy use.

    The ones I need to remotor are SD40-2's, U36C and U30B's. I know the GE's are the old fat bodied engines, and I do have several Atlas units like them, but these old gals are super detailed and custom painted, and well, why re-invent the wheel and retire them after all that work and money?? And I am NOT a fan of the Kato SD40-2 due to their questionable electrical pickup from the trucks, the UP lettering is incorrect, and the appearance of their SD40-2 trucks always bothered me. I much prefer the Athearn's in that respect. In *my* opinion, nobody makes better looking Diesel trucks than Athearn anyway.

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